Trampoline parenting

Clemmie Stewart and Rebecca Glover of Surbiton High School outline their concept of ‘trampoline parenting’ – where children are allowed the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from these, whilst being supported by their parents when they fail.

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In January 2020 we launched the concept of ‘trampoline parenting’ – parenting whereby we allow our children the opportunity to make mistakes, learn from these mistakes and support them whilst they fail, rather than always ensuring we step in and fight their battles. This concept has been borne out of the increasing need and desire of parents to wrap their children in cotton wool, fight their battles and prevent them from feeling any sort of hardship or failure at any level.

Who could predict that over the course of the next few months we would all experience a different type of intense home schooling of our children?

Pre-lockdown now seems like it was relatively straight forward: managing every minute of their day, school, clubs, homework, playdates, parties and holidays. Managing a busy child's calendar is an art in itself and the more ambitious a parent is for their child, the fuller the schedule. French club, netball club, art club; lockdown abruptly changed all of this. The parent became the home teacher, the coach, the language specialist, the artist. Parents quite quickly learnt that their children could not be occupied the whole time, but more importantly, for working parents in particular, children had to be able to be creative, think for themselves, manage their time and actually learn for themselves. For many, parenting became less about education and nurturing and more about surviving the day without a major fall out!

Post lockdown and with the reopening of schools, what lessons have we learned that we can share with our children and how can we embrace this new type of parenting? As schools reopen, and parents send their children back, the need to embrace an approach based on encouraging resilience, independence and positivity has never been more relevant. So, how can you embrace trampoline parenting as a new approach? Here are five top tips to try:

1. Talk openly and honestly about the current situation. Children, as we all know, are programmed to ask hundreds of questions a day. Serve that curiosity by responding in an honest and open way. Be truthful about how you are feeling, but ask more questions in response. How is your child feeling? What are they basing those emotions on? What have their experiences been thus far?

2. Model the quest for facts, and the battle against fake news. Children are able to compute the truth and can decipher facts. If they are scared of getting the virus, explain that only a very small number of children have had a positive result. If they are worried about being in school, outline to them that there are very few cases in any school, including those who were open throughout for key worker children. Reading between the lines, ignoring political spin and seeking facts are all good habits to get into – and will help children to live in a more open and broad-minded way.

3. Calculate the risks you are willing for your child to take, then encourage them to take them in a safe and considered way. Staggered starts and ends to the day causing a nightmare on the road? Depending on their age, let them walk the last five minutes; then the last ten minutes. You will want to watch from a distance to start with, maybe even practise the route a few times together. But in the long run, this deserved independence and trust will be paid back by mature children who are proud to walk to school on their own.

4. Help your child to develop healthy new habits, such as handwashing when they get in, taking responsibility for their own masks, keeping their own sanitiser in their pockets, catching, killing and binning those tissues! Talk them through why it is all important, model how you want it to happen, then reward them when they do it all independently. Not with star charts or pasta jars, but with acknowledgement that they are being responsible, mature and reliable, and that they will be healthy, strong and being responsible for themselves and others.

5. Now, we could write a whole piece about trampoline parenting and home schooling, but our hope is that any remote learning will be short in its tenure, and only needed as a last resort. However, if you find your child learning from home again, leave them to it. Help them to set up a schedule to follow, with lessons carved out and breaks to punctuate the day. Make sure they have a clear and bright space to work in, ideally free from distractions. Then trust them to get on with it. Do not keep checking in on them; do not keep asking if they have submitted the work. You will soon know from the school if they are not engaging, so let them be to learn on their own, either from the joy of succeeding independently, or from the consequences of not keeping their side of the deal.

As schools settle into a new term, it would be easy to revert back to a snowplough parenting modus operandi. We have seen some of this already with parents asking schools to raise the Centre Assessed Grades for their children now that these have become the basis of GCSEs and A-levels. This, despite the appeals process being almost non-existent in its nature.

Children have learnt over the last six months that they can be resilient, they can be self-taught and that they can and must be creative and flexible in how they learn. We have been claiming for some time now that the skills required of our young people today to be successful tomorrow are resilience, adaptability, perseverance and independent of mind. Let's facilitate this not only through the school environment but in the home environment as well. Only then will we create a generation of adults that we can let fly with confidence, knowing that they will bounce back from the life lessons they will undoubtedly experience.

Listen to an interview with Clemmie Stewart and Rebecca Glover

You can listen to an interview with Clemmie Stewart and Rebecca Glover discussing the themes of this article in the third episode of Attain's new podcast, Fresh Thinking.

Find out more about Trampoline Parenting via Clemmie and Rebecca's website.

Clemmie Stewart Photo

Clemmie Stewart is Head of Surbiton High Prep Schools.

Rebecca Glover Photo

Rebecca Glover is Principal of Surbiton High School.

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